Posted on Aug 23, 2021
A healthier and better educated population leads to growth in local economies. And this can begin with something as simple as a free, healthy lunch.
This summer Plano West Rotary Club (PWRC) was a proud to be a partner in the school district’s Summer Curbside Meals program. The program provides boxes of healthy food items, as well as nutritional information and recipes, to Plano ISD students and their siblings throughout the summer, free of charge. Plano ISD Food and Nutritional Services (FANS) works within the state of Texas Agricultural Department to provide these meals under the direction and funding of the USDA. 
Many students who normally rely on their campus to feed them breakfast and lunch may find themselves hungry when school is out for the summer. By providing for the nutritional needs of these students from June through August, Plano West Rotary Club and Plano ISD are helping to ensure these kids better health. Additionally, receiving these meals free of charge enables families to reallocate those dollars saved towards other living expenses.
The summer project’s leads were club members James Thomas and Katherine Goodwin. James is a Plano ISD employee who has continually worked as a conduit between our club and the ISD for the past year, and he assisted this project with scheduling, campus coordination and Plano ISD-specific issues. Katherine has a strong background in PTA and took on managing the large number of volunteers needed to carry out this project.
Every Tuesday of this summer, from June 1 to Aug. 3, our club members and non-Rotarian volunteers helped staff morning and afternoon meal distributions at three campuses across our city – Bowman Middle School, Clark High School and Shepton High School. That is 60 unique volunteering opportunities that the club had to recruit volunteers for and help oversee!
Plano ISD provides FANS staff to distribute the meals, but during the school year, there were teachers and other school staff to assist them with the drive-through distributions. However, during the summer there were no other school personnel available to assist.
Our volunteers at Summer Curbside Meals could be trusted to stand out in the hot sun and service the cars in the drive-through while FANS staff packaged meals in the kitchens where food handling certification is required. Volunteers helped package breakfast and lunch foods, including milk, produce, frozen foods and pantry staples into bundles, and place the appropriate number of bundles per child into vehicles. Bundles had enough food for seven breakfasts and lunches for each child.
PWRC volunteers enabled FANS staff to more efficiently complete the distributions, so they could end their shifts more quickly. Most of these folks didn’t take any time off during the summer and have been working abnormally hard since virtual learning started in March 2020.
The Curbside Summer Meals program received a number of eager volunteers through the summer, but in addition to the project leads, fellow Rotarians Jo’Anna Snowden, Erika Gebhardt, Rosolayn Johnson, Tara Bidwell and Kaitlin Jones were exceptionally helpful to this program. These club members helped greet new community volunteers and get them up to speed until Katherine or James arrived onsite for each shift at each campus.
By summer’s end, the program had served a total of 95,312 meals to Plano ISD students and siblings, with 234 volunteer hours worked. Way to help make a difference, Plano West Rotary Club!
The work our club did to aid Summer Curbside Meals falls under the Rotary Areas of Focus by growing local economies and supporting education.
The summer partnership was just one way that PWRC has partnered with Plano ISD so far, in addition to food distributions last spring. The school district has been so impressed and positively impacted by our volunteers that PWRC has been asked to help support food pantry distributions at Armstrong Middle School, Bowman Middle School and Rowlinson Natatorium each month for the next year.
You can sign up here to volunteer at an upcoming drive-through distribution Aug. 24 and Aug. 30.